Culture crime news 12–18 January 2015


Hot this week: Very bad things in India.

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Cultural guardian confronts the looters
(15 January 2015; Times Higher Education)
Shameless self promotion! A profile of…me.

See the World’s Greatest Stolen Artworks in This Virtual-Reality Museum
(16 January 2015; Wired)
Why not?

Your Prized Picasso Is Missing?! Now What?
(17 January 2015; Artnet News)
Discussion with Christopher Marinello about the launch of the ArtClaim database.


Grave robbers employ sheikhs to counter jinn in tombs
(14 January 2015; Cairo Post)
“Several houses in the village are strongly believed to have ancient Egyptian tombs underneath but locating the tomb is not enough. Without a sheikh, the treasures inside the tomb remain unattainable”


Pese a convenio, la illa del Ekeko circulará por el país (Despite the agreement, the illa of the Ekeko will circulate around the country; Bolivia)
(19 January 2015; La Razón)
Even though the return agreement with Switzerland said otherwise, the repatriated Ekeko will leave the national museum in La Paz and be displayed in location throughout the country. There are several stories about this in La Razón.

Museo suizo ve que procesión de la illa del Ekeko vulnera acuerdo (Swiss museum believes that the traveling of the illa of the Ekeko violates the return agreement; Bolivia)
(14 January 2015; La Razón)
Basically, Bolivia’s position is that Switzerland has no right to criticise what they do with their own returned statue and that Europeans have no right to dictate its cultural or religious significance. Fair.

Policías practicaban el tiro al blanco con piezas arqueológicas en el Estado de México (Police use archaeological pieces for target practice in the State of Mexico)
(14 January 2015; El Sol de Nayarit)
Police in the town of Cuautitlán Izcalli have allegedly used artefacts left behind in what was once an official state archaeology lab for target practice.

Impune, saqueo de zonas arqueológicas de Jalisco (Unpunished looting of archaeological sites in Jalisco)
(15 January 2015; Informador)
There are 642 archaeological sites in Jalisco and only two are public. This article looks at an auto parts store that also doubles as a looted antiquities vendor.

In the USA, Peru recovers stolen Paracas textile
(14 January 2015; Andina)
A Paracas Necropolis style textile which was stolen from Peru’s National Museum of Anthropology, Archaeology and History in 1993, has been recovered in Texas and returned.

St. Louis archaeology group ordered to change leaders
(11 January 2015; KSDK)
After the sale of various artefacts at auction, AIA central has ordered that the St Louis AIA dump its leadership.

St. Louis Archaeological Group Could Lose Charter For Selling Egyptian Artifacts
(13 January 2015; St. Louis Public Radio)
A recap of the scandal surrounding the dale of Egyptian and Mesoamerican antiquities by the St Louis chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America

Embattled STL archaeology board staying put
(14 January 2015; KSDK)
The board of the St Louis AIA are apparently not stepping down though.

Embattled STL archaeology group releases statement (USA)
(15 January 2015; KSDK)
In which they say they feel selling is better than long term storage, note that most of the objects (not the Mesoamerican ones) ended up in the Met…but neglected to mention that they could have just donated the objects to the Met.

Wyoming arrest is linked to museum break in
(13 January 2015; Rapid City Journal)
A Wyoming man has been arrested on charges related to the theft of German military helmets and animal skins from the Pioneer Museum. Over 100 items recovered including 87 furs and hides.

Chihuly glass art stolen from Denver Botanic Gardens recovered in Thornton; 3 pieces still missing
(16 January 2015; 7News Denver)
The piece of Orbs and Cattails, stolen on 22 August, was found as a result of a police search warrant and an undercover operation.

Connecticut art dealer sentenced to 4 years for fraud
(17 January 2015; The Bradford Era)
David Crespo was convicted of forging authentication documents for pieces he sold as being by Picasso and Chagall. He pled guilty to mail fraud in September 2013.

Roban corona de la Virgen de Lourdes en Falcón (Crown of Our Lady of Lourdes stolen in Falcón; Venezuela)
(15 January 2015; Noticia Al Dia)
The theft occurred in the town of Mene Mauroa while the priest was on vacation. Money from a safe was also taken.


Stolen Sculpture Found in Toilet of Paris Museum
(12 January 2015; Artnet News)
A security guard at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs noticed that Hercules and Cerberus, a 17th century bronze piece by Jean de Boulogne was missing. It was later found in a rubbish bin in the museum toilet.

Greek Police Arrest 2 Accomplices of Terrorist Xeros
(14 January 2015; Greek Reporter)
The two were charged with terrorist acts including manufacturing and supplying weapons and explosives, however one of the men was a former police officer who was expelled from the force 12 years ago for antiquities smuggling.

La Policía italiana recupera en Suiza miles de objetos arqueológicos robados por la mafia (Italian police recover thousands of archaeological objects in Switzerland that were stolen by the mafia)
(12 January 2015;
A short piece on Gianfranco Becchina in Spanish based on the La Repubblica article.

I tesori dell’arte nelle mani della mafia (Artistic treasures in the hands of the Mafia; Italy)
(12 January 2015; La Repubblica)
About the Gianfranco Becchina case with some snazzy infographics.

Primer asalto para el ladrón del Códice (First round for the Codex thief; Spain)
(14 January 2015; La Voz de Galicia)
What is in store for Manuel Fernández Castiñeiras, the confessed thief of the Codex Códice Calixtinus.

Trial of Medieval manuscript theft due to start next week (Spain)
(16 January 2015; The Art Newspaper)
The interesting case of the Codex Calixtinus

Surge in metal detector sales after discovery of 5,000 ancient coins (UK)
(12 January 2015; GetBucks)
Certainly upsetting if true.

South and East Asia

Return of robbed artifacts sparks debate (China)
(12 January 2015; Global Times)
Very short. Notes that only 6 artefacts removed from the Old Summer Palace in the 19th century have been returned. Items bought by investors to bring back to China are not on display in the palace.

Panchaloka idols stolen from temple (India)
(12 January 2015; The Hindu)
The three idols (Sri Adhikesava Perumal and his consorts Sridevi and Boodevi) were stolen from Sri Adhikesava Perumal temple, Sountharyapuram village near Vandavasi. The theft was noticed the morning after by a temple worker who saw a broken lock.

Sikh warriors’ seven daggers stolen from Amritsar museum (India)
(13 January 2015; Tribune India)
Stolen from Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama, the seven 18th century daggers were in a chain-locked room in the museum but a door handle was broken for access.

Cops suspect inside job in theft of royal daggers (India)
(15 January 2015; Hindustan Times)
The police note that the CCTV cameras in the room where the daggers were kept had been not functioning for a few days. Museum staff are being questioned and fingerprinted.

Idols missing from one more temple (India)
(13 January 2015; The Hindu)
Four panchaloka idols were stolen from Sri Prasanna Venkatesaperumal temple in Paiyur village near Vandavasi. Possibly the same group who stole the three idols from Sountharyapuram village nearby and recently.

Deadlock ends; Basant Panchmi to be celebrated in Kullu
(15 January 2015; Hindustan Times)
The chief caretaker of the recently-robbed Lord Raghunath temple has announced hat the festival would be celebrated without the idol.

Hoysala temples in Mandya crying for attention (India)
(16 January 2015; Deccan Herald)
Several temples built by the Hoysala kings are being neglected and there have been incidents of idol theft. At Brahmeshwara temple in Kikkeri, Mandya district two 11th century statues were stolen a few years ago and six were stolen two months ago.

Over 3,400 voters boycott panchayat polls over idol theft (India)
(16 January 2015; Business Standard)
The villagers in Laduwas gram panchayat boycotted the election in response to police inability to solve the case of the theft of an idol from Chomukha Nath temple last month.

Burglars strike temples in Tivim, Camurlim in Bardez (India)
(16 January 2015; Times of India)
Idols not the focus of these thefts but silver ornaments were taken from Shree Ganapati temple at Madel in Tivim.

Varanasi cops aided robbers to loot gold worth Rs 1 crore. (India)
(16 January 2015; Nyoooz)
A gang that funnelled stolen gold to a dealer in Varanasi allegedly included three police officers. Most of the robberies were from gold traders but it is thought that some of these gold items were antiquities.

Idols Worth Rs. 1 Crore Stolen From Temple (India)
(17 January 2015; NDTV)
Ashtadhatu idols of Ram and Sita stolen from a temple in Katihar district of Bihur. Police speculate that they were either taken for the antiquities market or to be melted down.

Priest killed, precious idols stolen (India)
(18 January 2015; Business Standard)
A priest was murdered during an idol theft at Rahua Math at a temple in Bihar’s Muzaffar district. Akshay Das was strangled to death and 8 idols were taken.

West and Central Asia

Saving Mes Aynak, Revisited (Afghanistan)
(15 January 2015; Fair Observer)
Brent Huffman discusses his documentary about Mes Aynak which is being looted and, he believes, will be destroyed completely this year.

Rouhani unveils smuggled Iran artifacts returned from Belgium
(17 January 2015; PressTV)
The president of Iran opened the exhibition at the National Museum of Iran which features 349 looted and smuggled antiquities that were recovered after a 33 year legal battle in Belgium.

Can you buy genuine antiquities in Israel?
(14 January 2015; Haaretz)
Yes, but it still might be illegal and is pretty unethical anyway.

Head of god Hermes seized in Anatolia
(17 January 2015; Hurriyet Daily News)
After a 3-month operation, Sivas Police have seized a number of artefacts including a Greek head of Hermes that, it is claimed, a buyer wanted to pay $3mil for. Several have noted that the piece in the photo appears to be a fake. Also 3 rings, 23 coins, 6 Ottoman books, 2 column pieces, 4 inscribed stones.

In Other News

Part of original World Cup trophy stolen in 1983 found in FIFA basement
(14 January 2015; Times Live)
…just part of the base, but interesting enough.